Outdoor classroom

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One objective we have at Camp Fletcher is to address the summer “learning loss” that happens when children are out of school for weeks at a time. We’re sneaky about it, so very often we’re able to turn camp activities into learning activities without the kids even knowing it. In this picture some of our campers are learning about bees.

We put a lot of time and energy into crafting lessons that are so enjoyable our campers don’t realize they’re actually sitting in an outdoor classroom and fully engaged in learning about nature or improving their reading skills.  Of course we will always spend plenty of time at camp with swimming and archery and canoeing and crafts and singing camp songs and all of the other things that make for a great summer camp experience, but parents shouldn’t be surprised that their campers are also learning while they’re having fun.

 

Memo to IT, Re: Elf

From: Camp Fletcher Management
To: IT Department Management
Re: Twinkle Loblolly, the ‘Camp Elf’

 Dear IT Management, 

How is your claim that “no one in our department created the twinkle@campfire-al.org e-mail address” even possible? If you guys didn’t set up that e-mail address, then who did? Nobody, that’s who! Only you folks in IT know how to create things like e-mail addresses and websites around here, so I’m holding you personally responsible. I’m starting to get questions about this e-mail address, so this is rapidly becoming a black eye on our organization.

And what do you mean when you tell us you are unable to delete or shut down the elf’s e-mail, and “every time we eliminate that address it turns itself back on?”  I’m no IT wizard, but even I know that e-mail accounts can’t create themselves and they definitely don’t “turn themselves back on” after being deleted.  E-mail doesn’t work that way. I need a better explanation than that.

IMG_1110 (2)What is the matter with  you people? Aiding and abetting a camp elf has to be a crime or something. Besides, everyone knows that elves don’t exist. And if I discover that one of you is responsible for creating the @twinkleloblolly Twitter account we just found out about, you are going to be looking for a new job so fast it will make your head spin.

The alleged elf left another piece of leafmail today. This one was a maple leaf covered with teensy-tinsy letters and left for us in its regular place outside the camp office. It was held down by two licorice sticks.  The red licorice was scrumptious, but I’m not a fan of the black ones, so I left it for the interns to share. I’m attaching the latest message from this Loblolly character. Please have our IT security team analyze it for digital fingerprints to see if it can point to who this person really is and who inside the organization may be helping him or her.

This insanity really must stop. You can be sure that I’m going to bring this elf business up with the Big Boss in our department heads’ meeting on Wednesday.

Hi, it’s Twinkle. It’s been a nice week at Camp Fletcher, and spring is definitely on the way; but it’s still too quiet here without all of the children. That’s why I was so happy when Rick from Alabaster sent me such a nice e-mail this week.

Rick wrote to tell me he enjoys reading my leafmails, but he had never heard of a camp elf before.  I’m sorry about the confusion, Rick. I’m actually a wood elf who lives at Camp Fletcher. People usually call me “the camp elf” instead of the more correct “wood elf who lives at the camp,” and I’m fine with that.  There are several kinds of elves—there are wood elves like me, but there are also prairie elves, mountain elves, desert elves, and even city elves. There are water elves too, but our water elf cousins are kind of snobbish and insist that we refer to them as sprites. Lah-dee-dah.

And no Rick, I’m not invisible. I’m just as visible as you or any other third grader in your class. It’s just that we wood elves are very, very shy and very, very good at hiding, so it’s almost impossible for you to see us if we don’t want you to. And we almost never want you to see us. Elves can be like that mockingbird you hear singing in a nearby tree but can’t spot through the leaves, no matter how hard you look. Actually that bird you hear at Camp Fletcher might really be me. Wood elves love to hide in trees; and my imitation of Mr. Mockingbird is good enough to fool anyone, even Mrs. Mockingbird.  If you do see me when you visit Camp Fletcher, it’s likely to be as a quick flash or tiny movement out of the corner of your eye—in other words, you’ll only see me as a twinkle. That’s how I got my first name, of course, but I bet you already knew that. So if you almost see something when you’re at Camp Fletcher, that’s probably just me saying hi.

Anyway, thanks for writing, Rick—tell all your friends that they can write me too. I can’t wait for you to come back to Camp Fletcher this summer.  Good luck with your book report in Ms. Haling’s class. I’m sure she’s not nearly as mean as you say she is.

Your friend,

Twinkle Loblolly

Camp Elf

Parent Testimonial – Erika H.

At Camp Fletcher, we’re a family, and we know we’re doing a great job when our camp parents are thrilled about their experiences each summer! If you’re interested in learning more about why Camp Fletcher is such a great summer camp experience, we want you to hear what other parents have to say. Today we’re excited to feature an AWESOME testimonial from a Camp Fletcher parent – Erika H.

Erika has two kids currently attending Camp Fletcher. Jessi, 14, has been a camper for 9 summers in our day and resident programs; Joshua, 7, has been in our day camp program for two summers.

Here’s what Erika had to say about Camp Fletcher:

erika halsey testimonial photo edit“We learned about Camp Fletcher through a flyer, handed out towards the end of the school year. Jessi had attended a different camp the prior two summers, but it felt more like child care. I appreciate that Camp Fletcher lives out the “camp” experience in its name, and that’s what I always envisioned in a camp — canoeing, hiking, fishing, and not just swimming all day. This was immediately noticeable from the other camp we had attended.

We chose Camp Fletcher, not knowing everything that we would get, and we haven’t regretted it. Within two summers of first attending, Jessi and Josh both learned how to swim at Camp Fletcher, without formal swim lessons. Jessi and Josh have come home with stories practically every day, excited about such things like catching the biggest fish in the creek or how they almost “captured the flag” and missed. Both kids especially enjoyed fishing (Josh) and hiking (Jessi).

The staff at Camp Fletcher has consistently been kind and professional. Camp Fletcher has been a great match for us because it has remained consistent. The number of campers have appeared to remain manageable and we’ve gotten to know our director and the counselors. We would definitely recommend Camp Fletcher, as we have recommended three of our closest friends and family members from Texas and Georgia, all of which have attended one or more sessions. This summer was the last summer for Jessi to attend as a day camper. However, she has always stated that she hopes to become a counselor at Camp Fletcher and volunteer her time as an adult. Camp Fletcher is a great camp.”

If you know someone who might be interested in coming to Camp Fletcher next summer, feel free to share this or any of our other Parent Testimonials with them. We’re so thankful for our awesome camp parents, and we know you won’t be disappointed with your Camp Fletcher experience!

Summer 2016 Highlights

We had an INCREDIBLE summer at Camp Fletcher, and we can’t believe it’s over already! Between the swimming, canoeing, archery, field games and more, the summer definitely flew by, and we can’t believe it’s already time for our campers to head back to school. We hope you enjoyed the summer as much as we did, and we can’t wait to see you again next year. Here are a few of our favorite moments from summer 2016!

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We hope our resident campers has a great time, too!

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We had a great summer, and we’re already hard at working planning our awesome fall events and field trips. If you want to see more photos from the summer, be sure to check out our Facebook page!

Bessemer Farmers Market

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Camp Fletcher is so thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Bessemer Farmers Market this summer! Running from June 2 – September 15, The Bessemer Farmers Market is the only certified farmer’s market in Western Jefferson County. Each Thursday from 4-6:30 p.m. vendors from all over the Birmingham area set up shop at Alex Bradford Park to sell fresh, local produce to area shoppers.

Major vendors – farms selling a large variety of produce –  include Dixon Family Farm from Clanton, Fiddlers Farm from Hayden, Postell Farm from Verbena, and the Veasey family from Hueytown. These farmers bring their very best seasonal produce, giving those living in the area access to produce they might not find in grocery stores. Other vendors include We Three Beeks Honey from Birmingham, Eleanor Wells from Bessemer with chicken and duck eggs, Carol Cockrell from Bessemer with handmade children’s clothes and hand towels, Magic City Sweet Ice from Homewood and Camp Fletcher. While we occasionally have some produce to sell from our garden, we’re happy to come out each week and talk about our programs with market attendees.

The farmers market is all about access to local, healthy food choices and most vendors participate in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which is a USDA program administered through our State Department of Agriculture that provides low income seniors access to vouchers than can be used at markets.  The Bessemer Farmers Market also accepts SNAP/EBT payments, and now participates in the Double Bucks Project. This provides SNAP users the opportunity to receive $1 in fruits and vegetables for every $1 they spend on fruits and vegetables purchased with SNAP benefits, up to $20 per visit. This program is funded by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.

There’s a wonderful sense of community each Thursday in Alex Bradford Park, and we’re excited to join with local farmers and vendors to take part in the local food movement. If you would like more information about the market or becoming a vendor, you can contact Joe Openshaw or look for the Bessemer Farmers Market group on Facebook. It’s a great market, and we hope to see you there Thursday!

For more information about Camp Fletcher’s VISTA Education Garden, visit us online!

 

 

VISTA Spotlight: Jade

Summer is always an exciting time at Camp Fletcher, but this summer has been especially exciting with the addition of two new VISTA members, Cynthia and Jade. Jade joined Camp Fletcher and Camp Fire Alabama in June as our Education Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA. She has some fantastic ideas for our garden education program, and we know she’s going to have a great time serving with us!

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Jade is 23 years old and was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from The University of Montevallo. We’re so excited about all of the passion and experience Jade brings to our VISTA team!

What made you decide to serve as a VISTA with Camp Fletcher?
I decided serve as a VISTA with Camp Fletcher for two reasons. First, I want to have experience in the education field and, secondly, Camp Fletcher matches with my goals for a future career in school counseling.

What previous experiences do you have that you feel will equip you for your position?
A majority of my work and volunteer experience has been in youth service. During college, I worked as a teacher’s aide at Child Study Center, a senior camp counselor at YMCA Camp Cosby and mentored for two years with Blueprints College Access Initiative.

What are your goals for your year of service? What do you hope to accomplish?
My number one goal for my year of service is to make sure every garden exploration lesson plan is up to course standards and is fun! Also, I want every day to be a day of learning, not just for kids, but every adult — as well as myself.

What aspect of your position are you most excited about?
I am most excited about interacting with kids, but I am so excited about doing a job I love. With this mindset I know I can give more than 100% to achieve success for everyone involved in the garden education program at Camp Fletcher.

What aspect of your position do you feel will be the most challenging?
This job is a new adventure, the most challenging aspect of this job is to make a curriculum that everyone will like and find successful.

We know Jade is going to do a great job, and we can’t wait to share the garden education program she’s designing with you next spring! For more information about Camp Fletcher’s garden and the VISTA project, visit us online!

 

VISTA Spotlight: Cynthia

It’s an exciting time at Camp Fletcher – summer camp just kicked off and we’ve also welcomed a new VISTA member to our team! We’re excited to introduce Cynthia, and we know she’s going to have a great year of service with us at Camp Fletcher.

Cynthia will be serving as our Community Mapping Specialist. She is originally from Dayton, Ohio but has lived in the Birmingham area for many years. Cynthia currently holds a B.A. in English, a Masters Degree in Business and is finishing up a B.S. in Psychology. We are so excited to welcome her, and we know she’s going to be a great addition to our VISTA project!

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What made you decide to serve as a VISTA with Camp Fletcher? I am very active and engaged in my community and when the opportunity to serve as a VISTA presented itself, I was very happy and honored to accept the appointment.

What previous experiences do you have that you feel will equip you for your position? I currently serve as the Special Events Coordinator for the Title I Parent Leader Counsel as established under Federal guidelines, and this volunteer position has afforded me the opportunity to serve my community in a number of capacities that range from working with school administrators, parents, students and key policy makers throughout the Birmingham City School system and surrounding areas.

What are your goals for your year of service? What do you hope to accomplish? My goal during my 1st year of service is to connect with and establish lasting relationships with the educational communities that surround Camp Fletcher.

What aspect of your position are you most excited about? I’m excited about bringing awareness to the surrounding area that Camp Fletcher is true Alabama history and that it should be seen as our gold mine.

What aspect of your position do you feel will be the most challenging? Initial contact and establishing the connections with the persons that can move the cause forward will be the most challenging.

If you would like more information about our VISTA project, you can visit us online to learn more about all of our service members!

9 Skills to Teach Campers Before Resident Sessions

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When you decide to send your child to summer camp, you’re already expecting them to learn a lot of different things. From improving their canoeing and swimming skills to learning how to make new friends and express themselves, campers get a lot out of their summer experiences. For first time campers, though, the transition from home to camp can be more challenging than they might expect. Even if they’ll just be gone for a week of resident camp, a little preparation ahead of time can make a big difference!

Making their bed: Campers will be expected to keep their bunk neat and clean, and making their bed is a big part of that. If your child doesn’t routinely make their bed at home, try getting them used to making it each morning so they’re comfortable making their bed at camp. It’s the little things that can make a big difference.

Enjoying the outdoors: For campers who live in cities or suburbs, spending a lot of time outside – especially in the hot summer – can be a huge adjustment. We work hard to keep our campers cool and hydrated, but some campers just aren’t used to being outside all the time. Spending time with them in parks or on short hikes before they come to camp is a great way to help smooth the transition.

Dealing with bugs: Being outside means bugs – and lots of them! Many kids are easily scared of bugs, but we want our campers to learn about nature. We want our campers to know which bugs are safe, which ones to avoid, and how to safely move them back outside if they end up in their bunk. These skills can make that first spider sighting a lot easier for a camper!

Dealing with homesickness: Our counselors and staff are trained to deal with homesickness, but it’s something to talk to your campers about before dropping them off. Having a plan will help them feel prepared when they start missing home, and having a familiar object – like a stuffed animal – can be a great way for campers to feel safe.

Getting in a routine: Campers do a lot of different activities, and most of their days are structured and planned. If this is something your child isn’t used to, letting them know ahead of time that they’ll be busy can help them adjust. Go over schedules with them so they understand what they’ll be doing, and practice getting them in a routine for meals and bedtime before they come to camp.

Unplugging: At Camp Fletcher, we are completely unplugged. We know campers are going to have a blast without screens, but no access to technology can be an adjustment for some. Consider preparing your camper by limiting screen time to help them adjust better without access to cell phones, video games and other electronics.

Spotting poison ivy and poison oak: This is definitely something our counselors will remind campers about over and over again, but your child can never hear it too many times – leaves of three, let it be; leaves of five, let it thrive.

Eating right: If your camper isn’t used to making meal decisions by themselves, meals at camp can be challenging. Campers need to eat right so they have the energy they need throughout the day, and picky eaters might be less likely to eat enough at meals. If you have questions about the meals we serve at camp, let us know beforehand so you can talk with your camper about their options and making healthy choices.

Asking for help: While our counselors and staff are very attentive, your camper needs to know how to ask for help – not just at camp. Teach them how to locate a trustworthy adult and seek assistance if they need something. There are no dumb questions and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help!

We want all of our campers to make memories they will never forget! Learning independence can be a challenge, but taking the time to prepare your camper for their time away can make the transition much smoother. Our staff and counselors are trained to insure a safe and fun environment, and we know your camper will have the time of their life when they’re prepared and excited for a resident session at Camp Fletcher!

Staff Training 2016

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Camp Fletcher Summer Staff 2016

Today is the first day of summer camp and our staff has been hard at work getting ready over the past few weeks! Each year our Program Coordinator, Kasey, spends countless hours recruiting counselors for summer camp. Staff members have to be hard-working and full of energy, and Kasey hires and trains counselors that can facilitate a great summer at camp. Each counselor must participate in an extensive training program following the American Camping Association and Camp Fire’s policies and guidelines. We held staff training last week, and we wanted to give you a sneak peak into what our counselors learn!

Lifeguard training comes first, and all of our Lifeguards are trained and certified by the American Red Cross. Counselors who serve as lifeguards spent an additional week at Camp Fletcher with lifeguard trainer Jordan Barksdale. We have a great group of lifeguards this year and we’re looking forward to safe swimming at camp this summer!

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Lifeguards Mia and Courtney during Lifeguard Training

 

All of our counselors spend a week at camp for staff training. Many of our counselors are returning, and they are great at leading songs, following directions and setting a positive tone. We are so thankful for the counselors that return year after year, and they do a great job of welcoming new counselors to the camp family, too!

Staff training was all about learning and growing. Our counselors received First Aid and CPR Certification from the McAdory Fire Department; they spent time learning to lead camp activities – from canoeing to archery to the ropes course. They sang songs, shared meals and got to know one another. They practiced common camp scenarios, learned problem solving techniques and focused on camper health and safety.

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Camp Fletcher staff with Firefighter Kevin Allred from the McAdory Fire Department after First Aid and CPR Certification
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These counselors have been friends since kindergarten, and we’re so excited to have them working together at camp this summer!
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Counselors learning elements on the ropes course.
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We love to tie-dye at camp! Check out these counselors learning one of our favorite crafts!
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Hiking is a favorite camp activity and our counselors know the trails well by the end of staff training!

Learning to be a good counselor is all about thinking fast, working together and putting the needs of the camper first. It’s important that our counselors are having fun and loving camp, but our main focus is always safety. Staff training teaches our counselors how to be great leaders that can insure a safe, fun summer environment for each and every camper. We’ve got a great group of counselors this year, and we’re so excited for everything summer 2016 is going to bring! For more pictures from staff training, head over to our Facebook page!

Counselor Spotlights: Brianna & Mia!

Staff training started over the weekend, and we are so excited to have all of our awesome counselors at Camp Fletcher for seven days! Great counselors are key to a safe and fun summer, and staff training is an important part of making sure our counselors are ready and excited for the next nine weeks. So far, it’s been great, and we’re so excited to welcome back familiar faces and meet many new counselors, too! Today we’re introducing you to two new counselors, Brianna and Mia! This will be their first summer at Camp Fletcher, and we know they’re going to love being part of the Camp Family!

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Brianna is 24 years old. She is from St. Petersberg, Florida and currently attends Judson College, where she majors in social work. Keep reading to learn more!

What made you choose Camp Fletcher?
I think it’s going to be a great opportunity to help the youth we serve!

What previous experiences do you have that you think will make you a great counselor?
My studies to become a social worker will help! Also, I help my younger cousins through dilemmas as they grow older.

What are you most excited about for summer 2015 at Camp Fletcher?
I think it’s going to be a great experience!


Mia  is 18 years old and is from Birmingham, Alabama. She attends Samford University, and her major is currently undeclared, but she is considering a double major in International Relations and French!

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What made you choose Camp Fletcher?
I have always loved working as a counselor at summer camps, so when I found Camp Fletcher’s job announcement on the Samford University’s job searching database, I knew I had to apply! I was hired for the job and I am so excited to serve as a camp counselor at Camp Fletcher!

What previous experiences do you have that you think will make you a great counselor?
As a child who spent a lot of time at summer camps, I remember how much I looked up to my camp counselors as role models and knew that I wanted to be just like them. Ever since middle school, I have had the opportunity to work as a camp counselor at a variety of camps including Girl Scouts Rocky Mountain Day Camp at Kanawahala Program Center and Dawson Music Academy’s Music Camp at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church. My past experience as a camp counselor has helped me grow in patience and leadership, skills I will continue to hone as a counselor at Camp Fletcher.

What are you most excited about for summer 2015 at Camp Fletcher?
I am so excited to have the opportunity to spend my summer with some incredible campers, counselors, and staff members! I can’t wait to see how much the campers grow during their time at Camp Fletcher as they create new friendships, memories, and experiences!

Welcome to Camp Fletcher, Brianna & Mia! It’s going to be a great summer!